Singapore is hoping a special work visa will make it more competitive in attracting "the rainmakers of the world", its manpower minister said on Monday, as it seeks to balance its need for talent with local unease about expatriate workers.
The regional financial hub announced new rules two weeks ago to draw expatriates earning at least S30,000 ($21,452) a month, offering them five-year visas that would automatically allow their spouses to work also.
Addressing parliament, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said global talent would help Singapore develop sectors like sustainability, artificial intelligence or fintech, but it faced a challenge with other countries "playing an offensive game".
"When we are talking about top talent, we must be mindful of how global they are, and how stiff the competition is for them," Tan said.
Britain, Australia and Germany have launched similar programmes, while closer to home, Malaysia and Thailand are also offering incentivised long-term visas for foreigners with specialist expertise who earn above a certain income threshold.
Singapore has seen discontent among the local workforce about the number of foreigners employed in the country, with fears that too many well-paid jobs were being taken by expatriates.
The government has sought to allay those concerns, however, stressing foreign talent lured to Singapore would help to "create a diverse range of opportunities for Singaporeans".
Tan said Singapore would also develop its own talent and upgrade skills of its workforce, while giving Singaporeans global and regional exposure so they could take up leadership positions in global firms.
The head of Singapore's central bank in May said the country's financial sector was creating more jobs than local staff could fill and warned a "Singaporean only" approach would be fatal for the country as a global financial centre. ($1 = 1.3985 Singapore dollars) (Reporting by Xinghui Kok; Editing by Martin Petty)